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Rat delicacy.

First, an appropriate number of rats needs to be caught. This is done in the following way : in the areas that are frequented by the rats, deep traps are set, into which the rats fall. The caught rats are then boiled whole, together with their intestines, which in turn ensures the taste of this particular delicacy. The thing is, that the rats feed almost entirely on fruits and berries, and therefore their insides are very tasty. 

The particular rat that this refers to is Rattus exulans (kiore in Maori), which was brought to New Zealand by the Maoris about a thousand years ago. Initially, New Zealand - Aotearoa - was an island full of easily caught animals, this was due to the lack of mammals (apart from bats and a few sea mammals). After a few generations, when the large native bird, the moa, was pushed towards extinction, the lack of meat began to be felt. Some believe that this was one of the reasons for the practice of cannibalism within the Maori. The rat was quite common, and it was meat after all. 

With the arrival of white people, the rat delicacy came to an end. Together with Cook's ship, the 'Endeavour', the brown rat, Rattus rattus, was introduced, which was common at the time in Europe. This rat did not suit the palate of the Maori in the same way, and with the introduction of pigs by the white people, this delicacy was lost for good. What this has come to, is that today, no restaurant in New Zealand will serve a boiled rat stuffed with berries. What a shame... the death of tradition. 

It may be worthwhile to mention here, that sailing of the sixteenth and seventeenth century is largely to blame for the destruction of the local flora and fauna of many islands of the Pacific and Atlantic. This is largely the fault of rats, which have for ages inhabited ships and sailors have tried to eliminate them for equally as long. The ships usually carried cats, but even this was not enough. As soon as a ship neared the coast of an island, even though it was anchored, it was moored to the shore, usually with a thick rope. The rats would then climb across this rope, ready to colonize the world, and onto the land. The ship would sail away, still infested with rats, whereas the rats that were interested in the world would stay on the island and began to work on the local birds and animals. Not ready for such aggression, the local, peaceful, and lazy animals, usually did not stand a chance in the war with the rats. This is exactly what happened with numerous species endemic to New Zealand. Even the kiore themselves did not survive the introduction of foreign species and they are practically extinct on the main islands of New Zealand. 


It is how the European rat colonized New Zealand. 

[QZC04::042];[QRE01::120]p212

 


 

(C) (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

Jan.  2003
v.16

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